The Earth BioGenome Project begins sequencing the genome in earnest

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A global effort to map the genomes of all plants, animals, fungi and other microbial life on Earth is entering a new phase as it moves from experimental projects to large-scale production sequencing. This new phase of the Earth BioGenome Project, or EBP, has been marked by a group of research papers published this week in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, describing project objectives, achievements to date and next steps.

said Harris Lewin, chair of the EBP working group and Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis. “From basic science to advanced applications across a wide range of pressing global problems, such as preventing biodiversity loss and adapting food crops to climate change, EBP’s progress in sequencing eukaryotic life is modest and inspiring. Achieving the ultimate goal of sequencing all eukaryotic organisms It now appears within our reach.”

Launched in November 2018, EBP’s goal is to provide a complete catalog of DNA sequences for all of the 1.8 million identified species of plants, animals, and fungi as well as single-celled eukaryotes.

The Earth is expected to lose 50% of its biodiversity by the end of this century without taking action to curb climate change and protect the health of global ecosystems. Creating a digital library of DNA sequences for all known eukaryotic organisms can help create effective tools to prevent biodiversity loss and pathogen spread, monitor and protect ecosystems, and enhance ecosystem services.

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The project acts as an international network of networks, coordinating several group-specific, regional and national efforts, such as the California Conservation Genome Project (US), the Darwin Tree of Life Project (Great Britain and Ireland), and the Vertebrate Genome Project. and the 10,000 Bird Genome Project.

The project’s administrative office is located at the UC Davis Genome Center. The center also serves as a major DNA sequencing hub for the California Genomics Project, a UCSD-wide project led by UCLA Professor Bradley Schaffer, which aims to assist the state of California in managing endangered and economically important species using genomic tools.

Phase 1 Objectives

The first two years of the EBP program, 2018-20, represent the start-up phase. The goal for phase 1, through 2023, is to produce reference genomes representing approximately 9,400 taxonomic families. To date, the affiliate projects have produced about 200 such reference genomes, with the sequencing, assembly and annotation of more than 3,000 expected to be completed by the end of 2022, representing about a third of the phase one target.

As of December 2021, the project includes 5,000 scientists and technical staff at 44 member institutions in 22 countries on every continent except Antarctica. There are 49 affiliated projects covering most of the major taxonomic groups of eukaryotes, which have access to tens of thousands of high-quality specimens from museum collections and field biologists. Recently, a group of African institutions in 22 countries came online with the name Africa BioGenome Project. BIOSCAN, which implements DNA barcode technology for species detection and identification, and the Global Virome Project, an effort to discover new viruses that may pose pandemic threats, have also joined forces with affiliates.

Key activities in the first three years included developing and evaluating standards and strategies, organizing regional, national and transnational projects, and building communities through regular working committee meetings and an annual conference.

In addition to the International Scientific Committee, which develops project standards, EBP has also formed committees on ethics, legal and social issues, justice and equity, and diversity and inclusion. The EBP’s proactive stance on understanding the ethical, legal and social issues surrounding the project will provide recommendations on access and benefit-sharing, equity and inclusion in the biodiversity genomics community and in indigenous communities within the world’s most biodiverse countries.


The genetic code of 66,000 British species will be sequenced


more information:
Earth BioGenome Project 2020: Starting the Clock, Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2115635118

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